Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Greenhouse Propagation

Ever since I harvested the last of my greenhouse crops, I’ve been dying to go forth and propagate. It’s not that I need more plants, but I’ve never had the space for cuttings before and besides, it’s always useful to have a tray of plants to take to the school fair or the local jumble sale.

I started with cuttings of curry plant, lavender, penstemon, fuchsia, hydrangea, pinks, rosemary, geraniums, buddleia and everlasting wallflower. If you’ve never taken cuttings before and want to see how it’s done, YouTube has some good entries to help you get started. This one by Margaret Lear is one of the most popular. This video is slightly shambolic but I like the home-made feel!

As well as cuttings I’ve also been tracking down seed from plants I’ve written down in my notebook but never quite got round to growing.
One is Viola wittrockiana ‘Ultima Morpho ( F1). This variety won a Fleuroselect medal a few years ago but doesn’t seem to be on the market any more. I tracked some down at Seeds by Size run by John Size. His web-site is a bit more complicated than it might be, but is worth persevering with as he has an incredibly large selection on offer. Ultima Morpho is named after a Morpho butterfly, it has lovely blue petals with yellow markings and I’ve sown some in the greenhouse now so that I can over-winter the plants in a cold frame and get a head start in spring. Another plant which caught my attention is Lupinus ‘Blue Spear’. This is a tall variety of annual lupin bred for cutting. It has handsome, long spires which are blue and yellow, but again it’s not widely available. I found it on Nicky’s Seeds, though it looks remarkably like Lupinus Hartwegii, and seems to be used referred to as the same thing on some sites.

Blue Spear Lupin

A friend mentioned that the germination could sometimes be tricky, so I soaked the seed, which is quite large, overnight in water. I then did a test: 20 seeds in soil with a covering of vermiculite, 20 seeds between two pieces of moist kitchen towel and 20 seeds in a plastic bag with some barely moist compost. Interestingly the first conventionally sown group only produced 4 shoots after a week or so, the rest rotted away. The kitchen towel seeds produced 10 seedlings (with the rest looking rather unhappy). Best of all were the seeds in the just damp compost. They produced 17 seedlings of the strongest vigour, which I am about to pot up individually.

When they have put on a little growth, they too will leave the greenhouse to be overwintered in the cold frame for an early spring start. Next week I’ll be sowing sweet peas.

  • lovely commentary, Ms. Das Gupta — I especially like learning the names of the plants (Viola wittrockiana, Lupinus Hartwegii, etc.) … neat!